Why do my cookies spread out?

socksAugust 17, 2008

I've practically given up baking. I use butter when I make cookies, and the cookies spread out so flat they merge into one big mess. Should I refrigerate the dough before baking the cookies? I use the air bake sheets (2 layers). Is that the problem?

I said I would not bake again, but I would like to make some cookies for a friend.

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Marigene

When that happens, it usually is a sign the butter is too warm. Refrigerating the cookie dough wouldn't hurt, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 12:12PM
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petra_gw

I always refrigerate the cookie sheets (with the cookies on them) for 15, 20 mins prior to baking. Works for me, the cookies spread a little bit, but not nearly as much as before.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 1:31PM
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lindac

Refrigerate the dough for an hour....do a test with about 3 cookies and if they still spread,a dd a little more flour.
Linda c

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 1:45PM
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socks

Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 1:46PM
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maureen_me

Also, if you want the buttery taste but don't want the spreading that comes from using all butter, try using half butter and half solid shortening.

Baking 911 has lots of great information. Scroll down the linked table to see other things you can do to reduce the spreading. And I will NOT make a joke about eating fewer cookies. ;o)

Here is a link that might be useful: Cookie troubleshooting

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 3:39PM
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cloud_swift

In addition to making sure that the dough starts out cold, make sure the oven is well preheated. Basically, you want the outside edges of the cookie to cook a little to firm them up before most of the cookie heats to the point where the dough gets melty.

Also, possibly your oven temperature is a bit low. You might check it with an oven thermometer.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 8:10PM
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eden

Butter causes the most spread when baking cookies. It tastes great but spreads more. Therefore, have your cookie batter cold when putting it on your cookie sheet. Let your cookie sheet cool in between as putting the dough on a hot cookie sheet causes the batter to spread also. Shortening causes the least spread.
Sometimes, I have added a little self rising flour as it has a leavening agent in it and that helps the rising factor.
Self rising flour: 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 t. baking pwder, and 1/2 t. salt. I leave the salt out.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 8:22PM
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bryansda

I had the same problem with a tried and true recipe for cookies. Once I figured out that I was using whole wheat flour instead of AP, like in the past, they quit spreading. Just a thought incase getting the dough cold doesn't work.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 1:38AM
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kandm

I'm not sure if you're using baking soda in this recipe, but it encourages spreading. Milk and butter spread dough as well.

If you replace some of the baking soda with baking powder the acidity in the dough will increase and the dough will set faster/spread less. It might not get as brown though.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 10:38AM
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jessyf

I 'clipped' this from a post submitted by booberry a while ago.

Here are some hints and some trouble shooting techniques for cookies. It looks like the links Ann gave you have lots of good recipes!

So How Do You Want ÂEm?

How do you combine it all to come up with your favorite winning texture? The tips below will help you achieve the cookie you desire.

Flat
If you want your cookies on the flat side, you can do some or all of the following things: Use all butter, use all-purpose flour or bread flour, increase the sugar content slightly, add a bit of liquid to your dough, and or bring the dough to room temperature before baking.

Puffy
If you like your cookies light and puffy, try some of the following tricks. Use shortening or margarine and cut back on the fat, add an egg, cut back on the sugar, use cake flour or pastry flour, use baking powder instead of baking soda, refrigerate your dough before baking.

Chewy
If chewiness is your desire remove the cookies a few minutes before they are done, while their centers are still soft and not quite cooked through. The edges should be slightly golden but the middle will still look slightly raw. Use brown sugar or honey as a sweetener. Try using egg yolks instead of whole eggs. This will add some extra moistness to the cookies thus helping to be a bit more on the chewy side.

Crispy
For crisp and crunchy cookies, bake your cookies a few minutes longer than suggested and immediately remove them to a wire rack to cool. Cookies made with all butter and high amounts of white sugar will also crisp quite nicely. Another trick is to use bread flour.

Common Cookie Problems

Exerts taken from www.joyofbaking.com.

Cookies brown too quickly  the oven is too hot or baking pans are a dark color. Try baking at a lower temperature, longer or use heavy gauge aluminum baking sheets.

Bottom of cookies brown too quickly  same as above, or the oven rack is too low, or too much sugar is in the cookies.

Top of cookies brown too quickly and bottoms are not cooked the rack is too high in the oven

Cookies spread too much  the dough is too soft - refrigerate for 15 minutes; warm baking sheets were used; too much butter, oil, or margarine was used  try using a 50/50 mix of shortening and butter.

Cookies do not bake evenly  your cookie sheet may be warped or the temperature throughout the oven is not even.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 10:47AM
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loagiehoagie

I know what makes my rear end spread out.....eating too many cookies :-)

D-

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 11:10AM
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miles661

I substitute butter-flavored crisco to avoid spreading. If I am out of that I will add butter flavoring to regular crisco.
I also emuslify the crisco/eggs/vanilla/sugar to within an inch of it's life before adding in the flour. My cookies tend to be more fluffy and bake through a little quicker.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 1:51PM
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eden

I like the way shortening bakes the cookies, but I use butter due to the transfats even though you have to be more careful with butter. I think butter makes the cookies taste better.
Jessyf: thanks for the cookie tips. I am going to print them out.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 9:53AM
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